As planned, I went to the March for Life today. It was a thrilling experience, as always. It was also a rather chilly experience, as the temperatures were in the upper 20s or so. A few quick notes:
- One of the most impressive developments is the Vigil Mass. It’s less well-known than the March itself, but it’s an incredible thing. I wasn’t able to go this year, but I’ve heard it was great. The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal DiNardo and concelebrated by four other Cardinals, and a whopping 39 Bishops. Normally, it’s exciting just to experience a Bishop celebrate Mass, so I’m sure that seeing forty-four of the successors of the Apostles celebrating Mass together in one place is just unbelievable, to say nothing of the fact that five of them were Cardinals. Some 10,000 people turned out for the Mass (which was in the beautiful Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception). That figure in itself is impressive, since the Mass was scheduled to run for three hours, and there have been a ton of other Masses.
- The day of the March kicks off with more Mass. At the Verizon Center, there was an enormous Youth Rally and Mass going from 7:30 this morning until 11:30, with a rally, confessions, the rosary, and Mass. There was another mega-Mass at the D.C. Armory, and basically every Catholic church in D.C. seemed to be overflowing with marchers. I avoided the stadium-Masses, opting for St. Mary’s in Chinatown, but even it was standing-room only by the time 10:30 Mass began.
- My guess is that a couple hundred thousand people came out. Beyond that, many more wanted to come but couldn’t because of things like work. EWTN covered it, which was nice, for those who couldn’t make the trip.
- The crowd was overwhelming young, and majority female. In contrast, the sole counter-protester I saw was an older man. Not exactly the stereotypes of the two movements. A lot of signs and stickers saying “We are the Pro-Life Generation.” Indeed.
- The speakers today were very good. There were basically two groups: the politicans, and the religious leaders. As for the politicians, there were a lot more than in past years, a testament to November’s midterm elections. There was a lot of excitement on both sides of the stage, as freshmen House members sought to prove their pro-life bona fides. There was, in total, one Democrat who spoke – Rep. Lipinski (D-OH), who was also one of the only Democrats to vote against Obamacare. He’s an authentically pro-life Catholic, and his short speech (about how overturning Roe is going to require pro-lifers in both parties) got sustained applause and cheering from the crowd. Many of the politcians focused on H.R. 3, the House bill that will end taxpayer funding for abortion. The bill looks great, and it’ll be interesting to see how Democrats respond to such a common-sense measure. Even a lot of pro-choicers seem to support the idea. Quite a few pols quoted Scripture, and were on the whole rather optimistic.
- A few of the religious leaders were more sharply critical. In particular, the A.M.E. pastor attacked (by name) Haley Barbour and a few other Republicans for wanting to call a “truce” on abortion to focus on the economy. In a moving speech / sermon, the pastor said we can’t call a truce while more than 40 out of every hundred pregnancies in New York City ends with a child killed in the womb. He warned everyone, “Democrat, Republican, or Tea Party” not to give in to the abortion industry. The Orthodox Jewish rabbi was equally critical, and there was a general “Jeremiad” tone to some of the speeches.
- All in all, it created a good balance. While the religious leaders reminded us just how dire the problem was (and how we shouldn’t trust the politicians too much), the politicians promised a new era of pro-life politics. Having one without the other would have encouraged despair (on the one side) or false hope (on the other).
- The only real criticism I had was that it was perhaps too political — by which I mean that the speakers had Roe in their sights (which is great), but didn’t offer a whole lot of practical advice for what people should do while Roe was still the law of the land. Almost every solution involved someone in Congress doing something, and us encouraging them to do it. It strikes me that there’s real untapped potential there – other than calling their Congressman, what should ordinary citizens do to discourage women from having abortions, or to shut down abortion clinics, etc.? I think a couple hundred thousand people would have loved that answer.
- The best line of the day came from someone (I can’t remember who) who said that we live in a society where we worry about throwing away a plastic bottle, but not an unborn human life. It put things in perspective, and quickly.
- The best speech of the day was a short one from a white Kansas Congressman, who brought his wife and their African-American daughters up on stage. These young women were adopted, and were a testament to their parents’ pro-life bona fides. Adoption agencies have a hard time placing African-American children in general into adoptive homes, so seeing a non-black couple willing to shoulder the stigma of having a mixed-race family is awesome. Re: my earlier criticism, this is the sort of inspiring message which the crowd went nuts for, and I think it meant more than legislative promises (as important as those definitely are).
All in all, it was pretty amazing.